Patent application title: INTERFACE FOR CLUSTERING DATA OBJECTS USING COMMON ATTRIBUTES
James R. Fisher (Collinsville, OK, US)
ROVI TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION
IPC8 Class: AG06F1730FI
Publication date: 2011-11-24
Patent application number: 20110289083
Data objects are correlated by comparing attributes of two data objects
and determining that the data objects are a match based on the
comparison. Data elements corresponding to assignments of an identifier
are generated, and the data elements are stored in a cluster.
1. A method for correlating data objects, comprising: comparing an
attribute of a first data object to an attribute of a second data object;
determining that the first data object is a match to the second data
object based upon the comparison of the attributes of the first and
second data objects; generating a first data element corresponding to an
assignment of an identifier to the first data object; generating a second
data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the
second data object; storing the first data element in a cluster; and
storing the second data element in the cluster, wherein the first data
object is associated with a set of data objects, wherein the second data
object is associated with a set of data objects different from the set of
data objects associated with the first data object.
2. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: determining a likelihood that the first data object relates to the second data object, wherein the determining the likelihood step is performed prior to the comparing step, and wherein the likelihood is based on a numeric weight.
3. The method according to claim 2, further comprising: determining a second likelihood that the first data object relates to the second data object, the determining including applying predetermined rules to at least one of the numeric weight, the attribute of the first data object, and the attribute of the second data object, wherein the determining the second likelihood step is performed after the determining the first likelihood step.
4. The method according to claim 1, wherein the cluster is a pre-existing cluster, wherein the identifier is associated with the pre-existing cluster, and wherein the generating of the first data element and the storing of the first data element are performed prior to the comparing step.
5. The method according to claim 1, wherein the first data object and the second data object are database records, and wherein the sets of data objects each are one of a multimedia content database and an entertainment content database.
6. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: comparing an attribute of the first data object to an attribute of a third data object; determining that the first data object is a candidate match to the third data object based upon the comparison of the first and third objects' attributes; and storing data corresponding to the candidate match.
7. The method according to claim 6, further comprising: retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; comparing an attribute of the first data object to an attribute of the third data object after retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; determining that the first data object is a match to the third data object based on the comparison performed after retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; generating a third data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the third data object; and storing the third data element in the cluster.
8. A non-transitory computer-readable medium storing instructions which, when executed by a processor, cause the processor to perform: comparing an attribute of a first data object to an attribute of a second data object; determining that the first data object is a match to the second data object based upon the comparison of the attributes of the first and second data objects; generating a first data element corresponding to an assignment of an identifier to the first data object; generating a second data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the second data object; storing the first data element in a cluster; and storing the second data element in the cluster, wherein the first data object is associated with a set of data objects, and wherein the second data object is associated with a set of data objects different from the set of data objects associated with the first data object.
9. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 8, the instructions further comprising: determining a likelihood that the first data object relates to the second data object, wherein the determining of the likelihood is performed prior to the comparing, and wherein the likelihood is based on a numeric weight.
10. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 9, the instructions further comprising: determining a second likelihood that the first data object relates to the second data object, the determining including applying predetermined rules to at least one of the numeric weight, the attribute of the first data object, and the attribute of the second data object, wherein the determining of the second likelihood is performed after the determining of the first likelihood.
11. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 8, wherein the cluster is a pre-existing cluster, wherein the identifier is associated with the pre-existing cluster, and wherein the generating of the first data element and the storing of the first data element are performed prior to the comparing.
12. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 8, wherein the first data object and the second data object are database records, and wherein the sets of data objects each are one of a multimedia content database and an entertainment content database.
13. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 8, the instructions further comprising: comparing an attribute of the first data object to an attribute of a third data object; determining that the first data object is a candidate match to the third data object based upon the comparison of the first and third objects' attributes; and storing data corresponding to the candidate match.
14. The non-transitory computer-readable medium according to claim 13, the instructions further comprising: retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; comparing an attribute of the first data object to an attribute of the third data object after retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; determining that the first data object is a match to the third data object based on the comparison performed after retrieving the data corresponding to the candidate match; generating a third data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the third data object; and storing the third data element in the cluster.
15. A system for correlating data objects, comprising: a matching component configured to compare attributes of two data objects, determine whether the two data objects are a match, and, when the two data objects are a match, assign an identifier to the two data objects; and a match storage component configured to store, in a cluster, data elements corresponding to the assignments of the identifier to the two data objects, wherein each of the two data objects is associated with a different set of data objects.
16. The system according to claim 15, further comprising: a preliminary matching component configured to determine a numeric likelihood that the two data objects are related.
17. The system according to claim 16, further comprising: a data storage component configured to store the different sets of data objects, and allow the matching component to retrieve the two data objects.
18. The system according to claim 17, further comprising: a match settings component configured to control settings related to determinations of matches made by the matching component.
19. The system according to claim 18, further comprising: an interface configured to allow a user to retrieve information from the match storage, allow the user to retrieve information from the data storage component, and allow the match storage component to retrieve user input.
20. The system according to claim 15, wherein the two data objects are database records and the different sets of data objects are one of multimedia content databases and entertainment content databases.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Nos. 61/345,813, 61/645,877, and 61/346,030, all filed May 18, 2010, the content of each of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety, as if set forth fully herein.
 1. Technical Field
 Example aspects of the invention generally relate to data integration, and more particularly to matching data objects from multiple datasets according to comparisons of the objects' attributes.
 2. Background Art
 Data integration, also known as "data matching," is the procedure of combining data elements from multiple datasets into a single master data representation. Data integration of datasets is typically accomplished by comparing the individual data elements of the datasets to each other for matches. These matches are used to determine which elements are contained in more than one dataset.
 Data integration is often performed to address "information siloing," which is a problem that arises when an enterprise accesses and uses information contained in datasets that were generated in isolation from each other. This can occur, for example, when information is contained in isolated datasets generated by various divisions of the enterprise or by third parties. The discrete, isolated datasets are referred to as "silos." In such instances, the datasets may represent data elements in different ways, making it difficult for the enterprise to identify redundant or matching data elements efficiently.
 One goal of data integration is to provide an enterprise with access to a consolidated dataset having a uniform data representation. Having a consolidated dataset improves data retrieval accuracy and data access times.
 Typical data integration platforms integrate datasets through the use of logical algorithms that identify common or similar attributes of various data elements. Commercial algorithms used by these platforms often incorporate fuzzy logic to improve match results, and many allow users to customize rules that are embodied by the algorithms.
 Despite the development and use of these data integration platforms, problems remain for enterprises that choose to undertake data integration. For one, the degree of customization allowed in commercial algorithms may not be sufficient to provide accurate match results during a matching procedure involving specialized data or data types. This can complicate consolidation.
 Moreover, even where an enterprise successfully consolidates its data, it may have customers, affiliates, or partners who need or choose to access an original dataset rather than the consolidated dataset. Efficiency demands that the enterprise be able to quickly relate or convert data elements between the two.
 Example embodiments of the invention described herein meet the above-identified needs by providing methods, systems and computer-readable media for correlating data objects into clusters.
 One example aspect provides a method for correlating data objects. The method includes comparing an attribute of a first data object to an attribute of a second data object, determining that the first data object is a match to the second data object based upon the comparison of the attributes of the first and second data objects, generating a first data element corresponding to an assignment of an identifier to the first data object, generating a second data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the second data object, storing the first data element in a cluster, and storing the second data element in the cluster. The first data object is associated with a set of data objects, and the second data object is associated with a set of data objects different from the set of data objects associated with the first data object.
 Another example aspect provides a non-transitory computer-readable medium storing instructions. The instructions, when executed by a processor, cause the processor to perform comparing an attribute of a first data object to an attribute of a second data object, determining that the first data object is a match to the second data object based upon the comparison of the attributes of the first and second data objects, generating a first data element corresponding to an assignment of an identifier to the first data object, generating a second data element corresponding to an assignment of the identifier to the second data object, storing the first data element in a cluster, and storing the second data element in the cluster. The first data object is associated with a set of data objects, and the second data object is associated with a set of data objects different from the set of data objects associated with the first data object.
 Yet another example aspect provides a system for correlating data objects. The system includes a matching component and a match storage component. The matching component is configured to compare attributes of two data objects, determine whether the two data objects are a match, and, when the two data objects are a match, assign an identifier to the two data objects. The two data objects each are associated with a different set of data objects. The match storage component is configured to store, in a cluster, data elements corresponding to the assignments of the identifier to the two data objects.
 Features, advantages, and the structure and operation of various example embodiments of the invention are discussed in the detailed description below with reference to the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The features of the example embodiments presented herein will become more apparent from the detailed description set forth below when taken in conjunction with the drawings.
 FIG. 1 is a flow diagram of an example data matching procedure.
 FIG. 2 is a block diagram of modules that may be configured to operate in accordance with the procedure of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3 illustrates a graphical representation of an example of a cluster.
 FIG. 4 illustrates examples of a cluster and a grouping.
 FIG. 5 illustrates a graphical representation of an example of a grouping.
 FIG. 6 illustrates an example architecture of a data matching system.
 FIG. 7 is a block diagram of a computer for use with various example embodiments of the invention.
 Some terms are defined below for easy reference. However, it should be understood that the defined terms are not rigidly restricted to their definitions. A term may be further defined by its use in other sections of this description.
 "Album" means a collection of tracks. An album is typically originally published by an established entity, such as a record label (e.g., a recording company such as Warner Brothers and Universal Music).
 "Blu-ray" and "Blu-ray Disc" mean a disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, and personal computer and media manufacturers including Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson. The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition (HD) video, as well as storing large amounts of data. The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of conventional DVDs and can hold 25 GB on a single-layer disc and 800 GB on a 20-layer disc. More layers and more storage capacity may be feasible as well. This extra capacity combined with the use of advanced audio and/or video codecs offers consumers an unprecedented HD experience. While current disc technologies, such as CD and DVD, rely on a red laser to read and write data, the Blu-ray format uses a blue-violet laser instead, hence the name Blu-ray. The benefit of using a blue-violet laser (about 405 nm) is that it has a shorter wavelength than a red or infrared laser (about 650-780 nm). A shorter wavelength makes it possible to focus the laser spot with greater precision. This added precision allows data to be packed more tightly and stored in less space. Thus, it is possible to fit substantially more data on a Blu-ray Disc even though a Blu-ray Disc may have substantially similar physical dimensions as a traditional CD or DVD.
 "Chapter" means an audio and/or video data block on a disc, such as a Blu-ray Disc, a CD or a DVD. A chapter stores at least a portion of an audio and/or video recording.
 "Compact Disc" (CD) means a disc used to store digital data. The CD was originally developed for storing digital audio. Standard CDs have a diameter of 740 mm and can typically hold up to 80 minutes of audio. There is also the mini-CD, with diameters ranging from 60 to 80 mm Mini-CDs are sometimes used for CD singles and typically store up to 24 minutes of audio. CD technology has been adapted and expanded to include without limitation data storage CD-ROM, write-once audio and data storage CD-R, rewritable media CD-RW, Super Audio CD (SACD), Video Compact Discs (VCD), Super Video Compact Discs (SVCD), Photo CD, Picture CD, Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i), and Enhanced CD. The wavelength used by standard CD lasers is about 650-780 nm, and thus the light of a standard CD laser typically has a red color.
 "Consumer," "data consumer," and the like, mean a consumer, user, client, and/or client device in a marketplace of products and/or services.
 "Content," "media content," "content data," "multimedia content," "program," "multimedia program," and the like are generally understood to include music albums, television shows, movies, games, videos, and broadcasts of various types. Similarly, "content data" refers to the data that includes content. Content (in the form of content data) may be stored on, for example, a Blu-Ray Disc, Compact Disc, Digital Video Disc, floppy disk, mini disk, optical disc, micro-drive, magneto-optical disk, ROM, RAM, EPROM, EEPROM, DRAM, VRAM, flash memory, flash card, magnetic card, optical card, nanosystems, molecular memory integrated circuit, RAID, remote data storage/archive/warehousing, and/or any other type of storage device.
 "Content information," "content metadata," and the like refer to data that describes content and/or provides information about content. Content information may be stored in the same (or neighboring) physical location as content (e.g., as metadata on a music CD or streamed with streaming video) or it may be stored separately.
 "Data correlation," "data matching," "matching," and the like refer to procedures by which data may be compared to other data.
 "Data object," "data element," "dataset," and the like refer to data that may be stored or processed. A data object may be composed of one or more attributes ("data attributes"). A table, a database record, and a data structure are examples of data objects.
 "Database" means a collection of data organized in such a way that a computer program may quickly select desired pieces of the data. A database is an electronic filing system. In some implementations, the term "database" may be used as shorthand for "database management system."
 "Data structure" means data stored in a computer-usable form. Examples of data structures include numbers, characters, strings, records, arrays, matrices, lists, objects, containers, trees, maps, buffer, queues, matrices, look-up tables, hash lists, booleans, references, graphs, and the like.
 "Device" means software, hardware, or a combination thereof. A device may sometimes be referred to as an apparatus. Examples of a device include without limitation a software application such as Microsoft Word®, a laptop computer, a database, a server, a display, a computer mouse, and a hard disk.
 "Digital Video Disc" (DVD) means a disc used to store digital data. The DVD was originally developed for storing digital video and digital audio data. Most DVDs have substantially similar physical dimensions as compact discs (CDs), but DVDs store more than six times as much data. There is also the mini-DVD, with diameters ranging from 60 to 80 mm DVD technology has been adapted and expanded to include DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM. The wavelength used by standard DVD lasers is about 605-650 nm, and thus the light of a standard DVD laser typically has a red color.
 "Fuzzy search," "fuzzy string search," and "approximate string search" mean a search for text strings that approximately or substantially match a given text string pattern. Fuzzy searching may also be known as approximate or inexact matching. An exact match may inadvertently occur while performing a fuzzy search.
 "Link" means an association with an object or an element in memory. A link is typically a pointer. A pointer is a variable that contains the address of a location in memory. The location is the starting point of an allocated object, such as an object or value type, or the element of an array. The memory may be located on a database or a database system. "Linking" means associating with, or pointing to, an object in memory.
 "Metadata" means data that describes data. More particularly, metadata may be used to describe the contents of recordings. Such metadata may include, for example, a track name, a song name, artist information (e.g., name, birth date, discography), album information (e.g., album title, review, track listing, sound samples), relational information (e.g., similar artists and albums, genre) and/or other types of supplemental information such as advertisements, links or programs (e.g., software applications), and related images. Other examples of metadata are described herein. Metadata may also include a program guide listing of the songs or other audio content associated with multimedia content. Conventional optical discs (e.g., CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs) do not typically contain metadata. Metadata may be associated with a recording (e.g., a song, an album, a video game, a movie, a video, or a broadcast such as a radio, television or Internet broadcast) after the recording has been ripped from an optical disc, converted to another digital audio format and stored on a hard drive. Metadata may be stored together with, or separately from, the underlying data that is described by the metadata.
 "Network" means a connection between any two or more computers, which permits the transmission of data. A network may be any combination of networks, including without limitation the Internet, a network of networks, a local area network (e.g. home network, intranet), a wide area network, a wireless network, and a cellular network.
 "Occurrence" means a copy of a recording. An occurrence is preferably an exact copy of a recording. For example, different occurrences of a same pressing are typically exact copies. However, an occurrence is not necessarily an exact copy of a recording, and may be a substantially similar copy. A recording may be an inexact copy for a number of reasons, including without limitation an imperfection in the copying process, different pressings having different settings, different copies having different encodings, and other reasons. Accordingly, a recording may be the source of multiple occurrences that may be exact copies or substantially similar copies. Different occurrences may be located on different devices, including without limitation different user devices, different MP3 players, different databases, different laptops, and so on. Each occurrence of a recording may be located on any appropriate storage medium, including without limitation floppy disk, mini disk, optical disc, Blu-ray Disc, DVD, CD-ROM, micro-drive, magneto-optical disk, ROM, RAM, EPROM, EEPROM, DRAM, VRAM, flash memory, flash card, magnetic card, optical card, nanosystems, molecular memory integrated circuit, RAID, remote data storage/archive/warehousing, and/or any other type of storage device. Occurrences may be compiled, such as in a database or in a listing.
 "Pressing" (e.g., "disc pressing") means producing a disc in a disc press from a master. The disc press preferably produces a disc for a reader that utilizes a laser beam having a wavelength of about 650-780 nm for CD, about 605-650 nm for DVD, about 405 nm for Blu-ray Disc or another wavelength as may be appropriate.
 "Program," "multimedia program," "show," and the like include video content, audio content, applications, animations, and the like. Video content includes television programs, movies, video recordings, and the like. Audio content includes music, audio recordings, podcasts, radio programs, spoken audio, and the like. Applications include code, scripts, widgets, games and the like. The terms "program," "multimedia program," and "show" include scheduled content (e.g., broadcast content and multicast content) and unscheduled content (e.g., on-demand content, pay-per-view content, downloaded content, streamed content, and stored content).
 "Recording" means media data for playback. A recording is preferably a computer readable recording and may be, for example, a program, a music album, a television show, a movie, a game, a video, a broadcast of various types, an audio track, a video track, a song, a chapter, a CD recording, a DVD recording and/or a Blu-ray Disc recording, among other things.
 "Server" means a software application that provides services to other computer programs (and their users), in the same or another computer. A server may also refer to the physical computer that has been set aside to run a specific server application. For example, when the software Apache HTTP Server is used as the web server for a company's website, the computer running Apache is also called the web server. Server applications can be divided among server computers over an extreme range, depending upon the workload.
 "Signature" means an identifying means that uniquely identifies an item, such as, for example, a track, a song, an album, a CD, a DVD and/or Blu-ray Disc, among other items. Examples of a signature include without limitation the following in a computer-readable format: an audio fingerprint, a portion of an audio fingerprint, a signature derived from an audio fingerprint, an audio signature, a video signature, a disc signature, a CD signature, a DVD signature, a Blu-ray Disc signature, a media signature, a high definition media signature, a human fingerprint, a human footprint, an animal fingerprint, an animal footprint, a handwritten signature, an eye print, a biometric signature, a retinal signature, a retinal scan, a DNA signature, a DNA profile, a genetic signature and/or a genetic profile, among other signatures. A signature may be any computer-readable string of characters that comports with any coding standard in any language. Examples of a coding standard include without limitation alphabet, alphanumeric, decimal, hexadecimal, binary, American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), Unicode and/or Universal Character Set (UCS). Certain signatures may not initially be computer-readable. For example, latent human fingerprints may be printed on a door knob in the physical world. A signature that is initially not computer-readable may be converted into a computer-readable signature by using any appropriate conversion technique. For example, a conversion technique for converting a latent human fingerprint into a computer-readable signature may include a ridge characteristics analysis.
 "Software" and "application" means a computer program that is written in a programming language that may be used by one of ordinary skill in the art. The programming language chosen should be compatible with the computer by which the software application is to be executed and, in particular, with the operating system of that computer. Examples of suitable programming languages include without limitation Object Pascal, C, C++, and Java. Further, the functions of some embodiments, when described as a series of steps for a method, could be implemented as a series of software instructions for being operated by a processor, such that the embodiments could be implemented as software, hardware, or a combination thereof. Computer readable media are discussed in more detail in a separate section below.
 "Song" means a musical composition. A song is typically recorded onto a track by a record label (e.g., recording company). A song may have many different versions, for example, a radio version and an extended version.
 "System" means a device or multiple coupled devices. A device is defined above.
 "Theme song" means any audio content that is a portion of a multimedia program, such as a television program, and that recurs across multiple occurrences, or episodes, of the multimedia program. A theme song may be a signature tune, song, and/or other audio content, and may include music, lyrics, and/or sound effects. A theme song may occur at any time during the multimedia program transmission, but typically plays during a title sequence and/or during the end credits.
 "Track" means an audio/video data block. A track may be on a disc, such as, for example, a Blu-ray Disc, a CD or a DVD.
 "User device" (e.g., "client", "client device", "user computer") is a hardware system, a software operating system and/or one or more software application programs. A user device may refer to a single computer or to a network of interacting computers. A user device may be the client part of a client-server architecture. A user device typically relies on a server to perform some operations. Examples of a user device include without limitation a television (TV), a CD player, a DVD player, a Blu-ray Disc player, a personal media device, a portable media player, an iPod®, a Zoom Player, a laptop computer, a palmtop computer, a smart phone, a cell phone, a mobile phone, an MP3 player, a digital audio recorder, a digital video recorder (DVR), a set top box (STB), a network attached storage (NAS) device, a gaming device, an IBM-type personal computer (PC) having an operating system such as Microsoft Windows®, an Apple® computer having an operating system such as MAC-OS, hardware having a JAVA-OS operating system, and a Sun Microsystems Workstation having a UNIX operating system.
 "Web browser" means any software program which can display text, graphics, or both, from Web pages on Web sites. Examples of a Web browser include without limitation Mozilla Firefox® and Microsoft Internet Explorer®.
 "Web page" means any documents written in a mark-up language including without limitation HTML (hypertext mark-up language) or VRML (virtual reality modeling language), dynamic HTML, XML (extensible mark-up language) or related computer languages thereof, as well as to any collection of such documents reachable through one specific Internet address or at one specific Web site, or any document obtainable through a particular URL (Uniform Resource Locator).
 "Web server" refers to a computer or other electronic device which is capable of serving at least one Web page to a Web browser. An example of a Web server is a Yahoo® Web server.
 "Web site" means at least one Web page, and more commonly a plurality of Web pages, virtually coupled to form a coherent group.
II. Data Matching Procedure
 Generally, data integration of multiple datasets is performed by comparing data objects from one or more of the datasets. The comparison is made according to algorithms and predetermined rules established to identify matches among data objects. These matches are used to define clusters of data objects and to define groupings of clustered and/or unclustered objects.
 An example procedure for identifying matches among data objects is described with reference to FIG. 1, and a diagram of example modules configured to be operable in accordance with the procedure is shown in FIG. 2. It should be understood that connections shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 are simply examples. The blocks shown in FIG. 1, for example, need not be performed in the order presented. Similarly, the modules shown in FIG. 2 may be communicatively coupled in alternative ways. In addition, the connections shown in FIG. 2 may be physical or logical connections, depending on the implementation.
A. Fuzzy Matching
 With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, at block 102, a preliminary match list is retrieved from a match selection module 202 by a candidate list module 204. The preliminary match list is used by the candidate list module 204 to generate other lists of matches called "candidate matches" which, in turn, are used to determine clusters and solitary matches, as discussed below. The match selection module 202 generates the preliminary match list prior to or during any stage of the match procedure 100. Particularly, the match selection module 202 generates the preliminary match list from sets of data objects retrieved from a data storage module 212.
 In one example embodiment, the match selection module 202 compares a target data object, such as an unmatched data object that belongs to a particular dataset, to other data objects belonging to other datasets. The match selection module 202 matches the target data object to the other data objects by examining their attributes for similarities, for example, by using a fuzzy matching procedure.
 The preliminary match list includes any data objects identified as potentially matching the target data object as well as corresponding numeric weights that indicate the likelihood of a match between each of the identified data objects and the target data object. A higher value of the numeric weight indicates a greater similarity and likelihood of a match, and vice versa. As is described in more detail below, the preliminary match list is a basis for determining further matches in the matching procedure.
 An example fuzzy matching procedure is now described. As explained above, match selection module 202 generates a preliminary match list by finding similarities between a target data object and other data objects based on a comparison of data contained in the data objects' attributes. Examples of data object attributes include text, audio/video data, machine-readable code, and the like. Where data objects are database records, the attributes include the fields of the records. As the match selection module 202 compares the target data object attributes with the attributes of other data objects, it associates a numeric weight to each similar pair based on the closeness of the attributes. The weight may be determined by the module's stored weighting functions. For example, when evaluating database records, a lack of shared keywords in one field of the records may cause the module to decrease the numeric weight by 2%, while a similarity in another field of the records may cause the module to increase the numeric weight by a greater percentage.
B. Candidate List Matching
 At block 104, the candidate list module 204 establishes candidate lists of matches based on the preliminary match list. Generally, matches contained in the preliminary match list are divided based on their numerical weight values and sorted into candidate lists.
 Each numerical weight that separates one candidate list from another is a threshold value. Threshold values may be predetermined (e.g., determined by the enterprise performing the data integration or by a third party such as a data consumer) or arbitrary (e.g., generated by a manual or automatic procedure using software or hardware). Threshold values may be determined by empirical or statistical considerations (e.g., generated by trial and error experimentation or information from knowledge experts in the field of matching data objects). For example, an interface may be used to input information from knowledge experts to the candidate list module 204, thereby generating the threshold values.
 The threshold values are stored in the candidate list module 204, or in the data storage module 212 and retrieved by the candidate list module 204 prior to or at block 104, as explained above.
 Matches on the preliminary match list having a weight less than a particular threshold value are deemed weaker matches than matches having a weight higher than that threshold value. Accordingly, each threshold value is a demarcation between a candidate list of stronger matches and a candidate list of weaker matches. The number of candidate lists generated by the candidate list module 204 thus depends on the number of threshold values. The candidate list module 204 may store one or more candidate lists in the data storage module 212 or a match storage module 214.
 Optionally, block 104 includes discarding certain candidate lists. For example, candidate lists having low match weights are discarded, thus eliminating the matches contained on those lists from further consideration at other blocks of the matching procedure. Discarding candidate lists having low match weights reduces the number of preliminary matches considered for final match determination, improving the processing time of, and resources required by, the data matching procedure. Discarding also can reduce the occurrence of spurious incorrect matches.
 Block 104 is further described by way of the following example. A preliminary match list is retrieved at block 102 from the match selection module 202. The preliminary match list contains matches having numeric weights ranging from 0 to 1. Division of those matches into candidate lists at block 104 is made according to two threshold values t1=0.90 and t2=0.75. The weighted matches are placed by the candidate list module 204 onto three lists L1, L2, and L3. All preliminary list matches having values between 1 and 0.90, the first threshold value, are in list L1. All matches between 0.90 and 0.75, the second threshold value, are in list L2. And all matches from 0.75 to 0 are in list L3. List L1 contains the highest-weighted matches, while list L3 contains the lowest-weighted matches. As block 104 further may include discarding low-weight candidate lists, list L3 may be discarded, for example.
 In an example embodiment, three candidate match lists are established from the preliminary match list. These lists are a high-confidence list, a medium-confidence list, and a low-confidence list. The matches on the high-confidence list are those that have the highest likelihood, as determined by the preliminary matching procedure, while those on the low-confidence list have the lowest likelihood. In this embodiment, the matches on the high- and medium-confidence lists are retained for further processing at block 106, while the low-confidence list is discarded.
 The candidate lists of matches are redistributed by a redistribution module 206 at block 106. Redistribution is performed by applying enterprise-specific predetermined rules to the candidate lists. Generally, predetermined rules are application- and/or enterprise-defined logic for determining whether a match exists. The application of predetermined rules at block 106 differs from the fuzzy matching procedure used to generate the preliminary match list. While both predetermined rules and fuzzy matching determine the likelihood of a match, the basis on which likelihood is determined by fuzzy matching differs from the basis of the predetermined rules, as discussed below.
 Input for redistribution at block 106 includes the matches from the candidate lists established at block 104. Input for redistribution may further include information relating to the target data object and/or the data objects on the candidate lists such as the dataset from which a particular data object originates.
C. Procedures Operating on Data Objects
 Generally, multiple predetermined rules are applied at block 106 by redistribution module 206. The predetermined rules include procedures that match data object attributes, procedures that compare data object attributes, and procedures that evaluate similarities and differences between related data object attributes. For example, a target data object and data objects on the candidate lists may be database records that originate from media content databases (e.g., multimedia and entertainment content databases). In this instance, the predetermined rules may match, evaluate, or compare information from data attributes such as, for example, title, release year, program type, rating, keywords, language, origin, episode number, episode name, season number, and credits.
 The predetermined rules applied at block 106 may vary. For example, whether a particular predetermined rule is used may depend on the dataset from which a target data object originates or on the dataset from which a data object on a candidate list originates. In this example, one set of predetermined rules may be applied when the target data object originates from a particular dataset, while another set may be applied when the target data object originates from another dataset.
 The calculation of a particular predetermined rule, such as matching, comparing, or evaluating performed by that rule, also may vary. For example, the calculation of a predetermined rule may depend on the dataset from which a target data object originates or on a dataset from which a data object on a candidate lists originates. In this example, where a dataset of a particular data object is known to have accurate information for a certain data attribute, a predetermined rule may assign a greater weight to calculations that relate to that data attribute. Conversely, where a dataset is known to have unreliable or inconsistent information for a particular data attribute, a predetermined rule may assign little or no weight to calculations that relate to that attribute. As other examples, the calculation of a predetermined rule also may vary depending on the threshold values used to divide the candidate lists, the numeric weight of a particular match on a candidate list, and the kind of data objects being matched.
 In an example embodiment, the predetermined rules are adjusted during redistribution. The predetermined rules are modified, enabled, or disabled by data-driven procedures, e.g., the application of the predetermined rules to one match may be used to adjust the application of the predetermined rules to a later match. The adjustment of the predetermined rules may be made automatically or manually. The predetermined rules may be adjusted based on information retrieved by the redistribution module 206 from the data storage module 212 or the match storage module 214.
 Redistribution uses the results from the predetermined rules to modify the weights of the matches on the candidate lists. For example, the redistribution module 206 may apply the predetermined rules and determine that a particular match on a high-confidence candidate list is less likely than its numeric weight indicates. Accordingly, the weight of the match is decreased, which may move the match onto a candidate list of lower confidence. Conversely, the redistribution module 206 may determine that a particular match on a low-confidence candidate list is more likely and increase the weight of the match, which may move it onto a higher-confidence candidate list.
 Redistribution may include revising the threshold values dividing the candidate lists. Redistribution further may include adding additional threshold values or deleting threshold values, thereby increasing or decreasing the number of candidate lists.
D. Cluster Identification
 At block 108, cluster identification is performed by a cluster identification module 208 based on the redistributed candidate lists. Matches between the target data object and data objects on the candidate lists are compared to known matches between the data objects on the candidate lists. The cluster identification module 208 retrieves known matches from the match storage module 214. Where there are matches between the target data object and matches between data objects on the candidate lists, the target data object and the matching data objects collectively may be deemed to be the same data object, and those data objects may be identified as a cluster.
 While logic used to identify clusters may vary, in an example embodiment, clusters are identified based on data objects that remain on the highest-confidence list after redistribution. Specifically, if any of the data objects on the highest-confidence list are known to match to each other, then the target data object and the matching data objects on the list are identified collectively as a cluster.
 For example, if the target data object is matched to two objects on the highest-confidence list, and those two objects have been identified as matching each other, then all three objects are identified as the same object, and the matches among the three objects are identified as a cluster. In other example embodiments, cluster identification may proceed according to different logic, including identifying clusters among matches between data objects on lesser-confidence lists. For example, where the data objects are database records that originate from various media content databases, cluster identification may use logic that determines whether the target record and any other records originate from the same database. This logic may be used, for example, when it is known that no two records in a databases are the same. Thus, there should not be a cluster containing multiple records from the same database, and any matches between the target record and a record in the same databases as the target record are erroneous and should be discarded.
 Various features of clusters and additional examples are provided below.
D. Final Determination of Clusters and Solitary Matches
 At block 110, final determinations of clusters (e.g., matches between three or more data objects) and solitary matches (e.g., matches between two data objects) are made by a match determination module 210. Determinations made by the match determination module 210 are based on the redistributed candidate lists and any clusters identified at block 108. Solitary matches and clusters determined by the match determination module 210 are permanently stored by the match storage module 214. In an example embodiment, clusters are stored in a table structure, as discussed in detail in connection with Table 1 below.
 A final determination includes one or more of the following rules: any cluster identified at block 108 may be determined to be a cluster for storage; if after block 106 the highest-confidence list contains a single data object and no cluster is identified at block 108, then the target data object and the single data object may be determined to be a solitary match; and if after block 106 there are no data objects on the highest-confidence list (e.g., there are no matches above the highest threshold value) and no cluster is identified at block 108, then the target data object remains unmatched and is returned to data storage module 212, from which matching of this object may be attempted again in a subsequent data matching procedure.
 Block 110 optionally may include a final determination of one or more candidate matches. Candidate matches are matches that may be likely based upon the redistribution of the candidate lists, yet are deemed not sufficiently certain to be stored as solitary matches or clusters. Candidate matches include candidate solitary matches and candidate clusters. Moreover, candidate matches are not limited to being between unmatched data objects. Rather, candidate matches can be made to previously-determined solitary matches and clusters that have been stored in match storage module 214. For example, an unmatched data object may be a candidate match to a solitary match, or a solitary match may be a candidate match to a cluster.
 Candidate matches determined at block 110 should be distinguished from the candidate lists established at block 104 and redistributed at block 106. Instead of being stored permanently, candidate matches are stored temporarily for further processing, such as a later automatic determination of a match in a subsequent data matching procedure or a manual determination of a match by the enterprise or a third party. For example, if there is no match to the target data object above the highest-confidence threshold but there are matches in other candidate lists, these matches may be determined to be candidate matches and stored in match storage module 214 for further processing.
 The contours of the data integration procedures described herein are simply examples. Those having skill in the art will recognize that they may be modified in various ways as the needs or resources of an enterprise dictate. For example, while the example procedure described above includes identifying clusters, it is contemplated that other procedures also may include identifying groupings, as described below, or may omit cluster identification. Similarly, while the example procedure includes retrieving a preliminary match list, other procedures may forgo such retrieval.
III. Data Structures for Storing Data Object Matches
A. Cluster Definition
 Matches between data objects may be stored in a data structure that supports such matches. This data structure is termed a "cluster." A cluster is used to describe a set of data objects determined by a data matching procedure to be the same data object, despite any differences that may exist among the data objects' individual attributes. Examples of data matching procedures that make such determinations have been described above.
 A cluster is defined as the set of data elements which records all assignments of a common "cluster identifier" to each data object in a set of matching data objects. The cluster identifier can be an alphanumeric string and it is unique to a particular cluster. A cluster thus is generated by assigning a cluster identifier to each matching data object and recording the assignments.
 An alphanumeric string, as used herein, refers to a sequence of one or more characters, including integers, letters, symbols, and/or combinations thereof. In an example embodiment, each cluster identifier is an alphanumeric string of numbers, such that each cluster identifier is an integer.
 A cluster need not record each match between individual data objects, e.g., it need not record object-to-object matches.
 Clusters may be stored by the enterprise for later retrieval or modification during subsequent data matching procedures. Data consumers may retrieve clusters. This may involve formatting the cluster data into a different form, such as a record of each individual match.
B. An Example Cluster
 Differences between a cluster and object-to-object matches may be further shown by way of example. Consider a set of five data objects A, B, C, D, and E. Assume that each of these data objects is found to match the others. Storing these matches individually in object-to-object form requires storing a record of each direct correlation. This requires ten data elements: A-B, A-C, A-D, A-E, B-C, B-D, B-E, C-D, C-E, and E-D. Alternatively, however, a cluster may be used to store the matches. FIG. 3 shows a graphical representation of such a cluster 300. To establish the cluster 300, a unique identifier 310 is defined and assigned to each of the five data objects 311, 312, 313, 314, and 315. To record the matches, the cluster 300 requires only five data elements, each of which records the assignment of the unique identifier 310 to one of the data objects, as illustrated by each two-way arrow in FIG. 3. The cluster identifier unique to this cluster is 001, as shown in the figure. The data elements required to store the matches thus are A-001, B-001, C-001, D-001, and E-001. Therefore, the cluster 300 is the data structure containing the five data elements A-001, B-001, C-001, D-001, and E-001.
C. Differences Between Clusters and Object-to-Object Matches
 Clustering, as described above, involves storing matches between data objects by a cluster identifier. This differs in several ways from storing each object-to-object match individually. For one, less storage space may be needed to store matches. For a set of n matching data objects, storing the matches individually requires
n ( n - 1 ) 2 ##EQU00001##
data elements, while storing the matches in a cluster requires only n data elements. Furthermore, the reduced number of data elements associated with match storage may improve maintenance of stored matches. For example, in the event that one data object in a set of matching data objects is later determined to not match to the rest of the data objects in the set, removing the mismatched data object's matches may be done by deleting the single data element which records the assignment of the cluster's unique identifier to the mismatched data object. Were the matches stored in object-to-object form, every data element recording a match of the mismatched data object would have to be found and deleted. A cluster also improves maintenance of stored matches. For example, adding an unclustered data object to a stored cluster requires only the addition of a data element recording that data object's assignment of the cluster identifier; the data object easily inherits the previously stored matches recorded by the cluster.
 As explained above, matches between data objects may be stored according to cluster identifiers, such that each matched data object is assigned a cluster identifier and each assignment is stored in a cluster. However, in some example embodiments, match storage may include other mechanisms in which object-to-object matches are stored as separate data elements. Similarly, other mechanisms for generating object-to-object matches from a cluster's data elements may be implemented. For example, a data consumer may request that the matches recorded by a particular cluster be retrieved in a form that shows each individual match between data objects, or a system performing a data matching procedure may require that object-to-object matches be retrieved as input data. In these instances, a cluster may be modified or otherwise operated on in order to generate object-to-object matches. Accordingly, the storage of matches in a cluster does not limit the ways in which matches may be internally or externally presented to, for example, the enterprise, a data consumer, or a system performing a data matching procedure.
A. Approximate Matches
 Relationships between multiple clusters of data objects and unmatched data objects may be determined by a data matching procedure. Referring back to the example data matching procedure of FIG. 1, that procedure was described with reference to a target data object. Generally, the procedure matched a single data object, such as a database record, to other data objects. The procedure used candidate lists of matches and predetermined rules to determine clusters and solitary matches.
 However, in example embodiments, a data matching procedure is not limited to matching a single target data object. Rather, a data matching procedure further determines whether a cluster relates to other clusters and/or data objects. In this manner, data relationships between clusters of matched data objects may be established. Such data relationships are different from those established by clustering.
 While a cluster provides a way to store multiple matches among data objects, it may not support what is described herein as an "approximate match." An approximate match is a data relationship between data objects indicating a degree of similarity between the data objects. However, where two data objects approximately match, they are determined to not match each other. Accordingly, an approximate match cannot be recorded in a cluster because a cluster identifier may be assigned only to data objects that are determined to be the same data object.
 One cluster approximately matches another cluster when the data objects of the one cluster approximately match the data objects of the other cluster.
B. Procedure for Determining Groupings
 Example embodiments allow approximate matches between clusters to be stored and maintained by using "groupings," as discussed below.
 A data matching procedure for approximately matching clusters of data objects proceeds generally in a manner similar to the data matching procedure of FIG. 1. Accordingly, only a brief discussion of such a matching procedure is necessary to provide to those having skill in the art an understanding of how to modify or use the procedure of FIG. 1 to enable cluster matching.
 Generally, a target cluster is approximately matched to another cluster by comparing the attributes of at least one of the data objects of the target cluster to the attributes of at least one of the data objects of the other cluster and determining whether the data objects of the target cluster approximately match the data objects of the other cluster. Additionally, a cluster may be approximately matched to an unclustered data object, e.g., a data object that has not be determined to match to another data object, and vice versa, by comparing the attributes of at least one of the data objects of the cluster to the attributes of the unclustered data object and determining whether the data objects of the cluster approximately match the individual data object.
 A preliminary match list based on fuzzy logic is retrieved. The preliminary match list includes any clusters identified as potentially approximately matching the target cluster. Candidate lists of cluster matches are generated and redistributed based on predetermined rules. Following redistribution, approximate matches between clusters are identified as "groupings," as discussed in detail below. A final match determination stores identified groupings and candidate groupings. In an example embodiment, groupings (and/or candidate groupings) are stored in a table structure, as discussed in detail in connection with FIG. 4 and Table 1 below.
V. Data Structures for Storing Cluster Matches
A. Grouping Definition
 Approximate matches between clusters and/or data objects may be stored in a data structure referred to herein as a grouping. A grouping is used to describe a set of clusters and/or data objects determined by a data matching procedure to approximately match each other, e.g., to have some degree of similarity yet not be the same data object.
 A grouping is defined as the set of data elements which records all assignments of a common "grouping identifier" to each data object in a set of approximately matching clusters and data objects. The grouping identifier can be an alphanumeric string, e.g., a numeric value, and it is unique to a particular grouping. A grouping thus is generated by assigning the grouping identifier to every approximately matching data object, whether clustered or unclustered, and recording the assignments.
 A grouping is similar in function to a cluster. Both are used to record matches and, like a cluster, a grouping does not record each approximate match between individual data objects, e.g., it does not record object-to-object approximate matches.
 As discussed above, a data matching procedure may be used to identify approximate matches among clusters and/or data objects, e.g., the procedure may identify a relationship indicating sufficient similarity between those clusters and objects. In one embodiment, whether one cluster (or data object) is determined to approximately match another may depend on predetermined rules such as those that an enterprise applies in a data matching procedure.
 A grouping is generated by assigning a grouping identifier to approximately matching clusters and unclustered data objects. The assignments are then stored, and the set of data elements that records the assignments is the grouping.
 Groupings may be stored by the enterprise for later retrieval or modification during subsequent data matching procedures. Groupings also may be retrieved by data consumers. This may involve formatting the grouping data into a different form, such as a record of each individual approximate match between data objects in the grouping.
B. An Example Grouping
 Differences between a cluster and a grouping are now described by way of example and with reference to FIG. 4. In this example, a class of objects 401 is defined as having N data objects Object1, Object2, Object3, Object4, . . . , ObjectN, which all are within a class of multimedia, namely, movies. Data elements 402 describing the objects' attributes (e.g., title) are, respectively, Die Hard 2, Terminator, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard, . . . , Rush Hour.
 The movie data objects are processed during a data matching procedure. Object1 and Object3 may be determined to be the same movie data object because their attributes are closely related titles. In particular, they are two descriptive forms of the same movie. While the titles are not exact, the predetermined rules recognize that it is not necessary for attributes of two movie data objects to be the same in order for the data matching procedure to determine that the movie data objects are the same movie data object. These objects may be assigned a cluster identifier 403. In turn, the assignments are stored in data elements that define a particular cluster.
 Object4, however, is determined as an approximate match to the cluster of Object1 and Object3. Although its title indicates that it is different than the movie data objects having Die Hard 2-related title attributes, its title describes a movie that has a degree of similarity to the movie of the cluster. More specifically, the movie of the cluster is a sequel to the movie of Object4. Thus, the approximate match, which indicates a degree of similarity among the three movie data objects, may be recorded in a grouping that relates Object4, to the cluster of Object1 and Object3, yet maintains a distinction between Object4 and the cluster. The relationship is recorded by assigning a grouping identifier 404 to Object4 and the cluster.
C. Groupings Generally
 In the preceding example, the grouping consisted of a data object and a cluster. In practice, however, a grouping may consist of any combination of data objects and clusters. A grouping may be a set of only data objects, for example, if none of the data objects in the set is a match to any other data object yet each data object is an approximate match to all of the other data objects. An unclustered data object that is to be assigned a grouping identifier optionally may be further assigned its own cluster identifier. Accordingly, the determination or modification of a grouping may include the determination of one or more single-data-object clusters. This may be the case, for example, where data storage of groupings is configured such that every data object in a given grouping is assigned a cluster identifier. Single-data-object clusters are discussed in further detail below in connection with FIG. 5 and Table 1.
TABLE-US-00001 TABLE 1 Grouping Cluster Database Record Identifier Identifier Name Number Description 99 001 DB1 18321 Star Wars 99 001 DB2 225 Star Wars 99 001 DB3 335666 Star Wars 99 001 DB4 6947 Star Wars 99 001 DB5 V1306 Star Wars 99 002 DB1 68124 Star Wars (Spanish) 99 002 DB3 872468 Star Wars (Spanish) 99 003 DB3 521143 Star Wars: Special Edition 99 003 DB4 3427 Star Wars: Special Edition 99 003 DB5 V3417 Star Wars: Special Edition 99 004 DB5 V8406 Star Wars: Special Edition (French) 99 005 DB5 V8973 Star Wars (French)
D. Combined Grouping and Cluster Example
 FIG. 5 and Table 1 illustrate different representations of a grouping according to an example embodiment of the invention. FIG. 5 is a graphical representation of the grouping and Table 1 is a tabular representation. The data objects in this example grouping are database records. Each database record has three attributes: a database name, a record number, and a description. The data objects are database records taken from five databases having names DB1 , DB2, DB3, DB4, and DB5. The record numbers are randomly assigned, except that the numbering system for each database has a consistent number of characters. The database record descriptions are variations of the movie Star Wars; the descriptions vary by release and by language. The information contained in FIG. 5 and Table 1 is similar. In FIG. 5, each database record is shown with its database name and record number. These correspond to the "Database Name" and "Record Number" columns of Table 1. However, for the sake of clarity, the records' descriptions, which are listed in the "Description" column, are not shown in FIG. 5. The grouping and cluster identifiers, which are shown at the center of the grouping and cluster elements in FIG. 5, are listed in the "Grouping Identifier" and "Cluster Identifier" columns
 Grouping 500, which is the assignment of unique grouping identifier 99 to its data object members, consists of five clusters 510, 520, 530, 540, and 550. Cluster 510 includes the five database records 511, 512, 513, 514, and 515. As shown in Table 1, these database records all have the same description: Star Wars. These database records have been determined to be matches, e.g., to all be the same database record, because their description attributes are the same. The database records are matches despite variations in their database name and record number attributes. This might occur in practice where different database compilations of the same database records have been compiled independently from each other. Thus, in this example, databases DB1, DB2, DB3, DB4, and DB5 each contain a database record for the movie Star Wars that is an exact match to a database record in the other databases. The cluster identifier for this match is 001. Cluster 520 includes records 521 and 522. Referring to Table 1, these database records also come from different databases but each describes Star Wars (Spanish), the Spanish-language version of Star Wars. Accordingly, these have been identified as a match defined by cluster identifier 002. Cluster 530 having identifier 003 includes database records 531, 532, and 533, which are records from various databases describing Star Wars: Special Edition. Clusters 540 and 550 are single-data-object clusters; cluster 540 includes database record 541, which describes Star Wars: Special Edition (French), the French-language version of Star Wars: Special Edition, and cluster 550 includes database record 551, which describes Star Wars (French), the French-language version of Star Wars.
 The approximate match giving rise to grouping 500 may be described literally as the various domestic and international versions of the movie Star Wars. This approximate match, of course, was arbitrarily chosen. In practice, an approximate match is identified based on predetermined rules applied during a data matching procedure. Such identification may proceed according to predetermined rules similar to those described above in connection with block 108 of FIG. 1. Furthermore, FIG. 5 and Tables 1 and 2 are provided simply to illustrate that data objects may be assigned one cluster or another based on different matches, and that the clusters may be related together in a single grouping based on approximately matching data attributes.
 Each row of Table 1 may be taken as a constituent data element of grouping 500. That is, the data elements which make up grouping 500 may correspond to the rows of the table. Objects included in the grouping are described by the columns titled "Database Name," "Record Number," and "Description." In other words, these columns list each database record's data attributes. "Database Name" lists each database record's constituent database. "Record number" lists an arbitrary identification number given to each database record in its constituent database. And "Description" lists the description of each database record, as recorded in its constituent database.
E. Table Structures for Storing Clusters and Groupings
 As Table 1 illustrates, clusters and/or groupings may be stored in a table structure. Specifically, a cluster may consist of records (e.g., rows in Table 1) with a field containing a cluster identifier and at least one other field containing other information pertaining to a matched data object (e.g., a matched database record). Examples of such other information include information relating to a database from which a record originated (e.g., a provider name, a database name), a unique identifier of that record in the database (e.g., a record number and a provider identifier), and a description (or actual portion of) a matched record. Thus, a cluster in Table 1 could be a table containing the "Cluster Identifier" and "Record Number" columns Moreover, while Table 1 has a form similar in layout to a flat database, this is for ease of illustration only. For example, a cluster can be stored as records in a relational database or any other type of database.
 Similarly, a grouping may consist of records with a field containing a grouping identifier and at least one other field containing other information pertaining to an approximately-matched data object. Thus, a grouping in Table 1 could be a table containing the "Grouping Identifier" and "Record Number" columns In an example embodiment, however, a grouping consists of records with a field containing a grouping identifier, a field containing a cluster identifier, and at least one other field containing other information pertaining to an approximately-matched data object.
 When clusters and/or groupings are stored in the form of records in a table structure, the table may be modified by the addition of subsequently-determined clusters and groupings, or by the removal of previously-stored clusters or groupings that have been determined to be erroneous. Modification may include, for example, loading the table, generating a new record (e.g., a new row), and entering data into fields of new records. Alternatively, modification may include deleting previously-entered records and/or deleting data in fields of those records. Modification may be done automatically or by manual input.
F. Primary Identifiers in Groupings
 FIG. 5 further illustrates another example aspect of the invention: primary identifiers. In various example embodiments, a grouping may include one or more primary identifiers. A primary identifier is a basis for indicating particular relevance among one or more clusters and/or unclustered data objects included in a grouping. The relevance indicated by primary identifier may be useful when providing match data to a data consumer or when storing matches.
 Table 2 shows a tabular representation of how primary identifiers are used to indicate one or more particularly relevant clusters from among all of the clusters within grouping 500 of FIG. 5. Referring that figure, the grouping 500 includes three primary identifiers 561, 562, and 563. These primary identifiers are languages, specifically, English, Spanish, and French, as shown in the "Primary Identifier" column of Table 2. As discussed above, the grouping 500 is an approximate match of clusters of database records that relate to the movie Star Wars. However, only some of the clusters describe the original Star Wars; other clusters describe Star Wars: Special Edition. In grouping 500, it has been determined that those clusters describing the original movie are primary clusters. That is, these clusters have particular relevance to the grouping. Moreover, because there are several clusters that describe Star Wars but vary by language, the primary identifier data elements include a language description, as shown in the "Primary Identifier" column This table thus provides a listing of each "primary cluster" in the grouping 500.
TABLE-US-00002 TABLE 2 Grouping Primary Cluster Identifier Identifier Identifier 99 English 001 99 Spanish 002 99 French 005
 In practice, whether a cluster is a "primary cluster," e.g., whether it has been assigned a primary identifier, may be based on the algorithms and/or predetermined rules of an enterprise. The assignment of one or more primary identifiers may be performed after matching of data objects into clusters and matching of clusters and data objects into groupings during a data matching procedure. Assignments may also be made to clusters and groupings previously stored, and assignments also may be made during manual processing of stored match data.
VI. System Architecture
 FIG. 6 illustrates an example of a data matching system 600 that operates in accordance with some of the example embodiments of the invention. The data matching system 600 may be configured to perform data matching procedures including, for example, the procedure illustrated in FIG. 1 and the cluster and grouping matching procedures described above. Generally, an enterprise may use the matching system to receive data from internal and/or external sources and to determine correlations between object elements contained in the data. These correlations may be recorded and stored as clusters and groupings, which are retrieved in one form or another by various system components, by the enterprise itself, and/or by data consumers. FIG. 6 illustrates the system as being divided into five tiers. It is illustrated in this manner merely to aid in describing various functions that the system may perform; the divisions should not be construed as limiting the input, output, configuration, or function of any component of system 600.
 Data accessed or utilized by the system 600 is stored or otherwise accessible through via a data tier 630. The data tier 630 includes a content warehouse 631, which is similar to a federated data store, and which is a data management system that allows access to several data sources, e.g., datasets and databases. The content warehouse 631 may include datasets generated, stored, or maintained by the enterprise which operates or controls system 600, as well as third-party data stored internally within or external to the system. As shown in FIG. 6, data may flow directly or indirectly from the content warehouse 631 to the other tiers of the system.
 Part of a data matching procedure may be performed at a match selection tier 610. This tier contains a data loading and resynchronization component 611 and a matching engine 612. The matching engine 612 is a component that may be used to produce preliminary match lists of data objects and/or clusters. The data loading component 611 serves several functions. It may run data loading and data resynchronizing procedures for the matching engine 612 and may update a memory cache of the matching engine with new data, deleted data, and changes to data objects. The data loading component 611 and the matching engine 612 may operate continuously, on demand, or at regular intervals, as determined by enterprise needs and resources. In this manner, a matching logic tier 620 may retrieve preliminary match lists from the match selection tier 610. Accordingly, the match selection tier 610 may be configured to perform some of the functions described above in connection with block 102 of FIG. 1.
 The matching logic tier 620 includes a continuous matching service 621. The matching service 621 is an automated component, like the match selection tier 610, that may operate continuously, on demand, or at regular intervals. The matching service 621 evaluates unmatched data objects and matched data objects that belong to pre-existing clusters and groupings to determine any unrecorded matches between data objects. Accordingly, the matching logic service 620 may be configured to perform some of the functions described above in connection with blocks 102, 104, 106, and 108 of FIG. 1.
 The data tier 630 interacts with the matching logic tier 620 in various ways. The matching service 621 receives data objects for evaluation from the content warehouse 631. Settings related to the operation of the matching service 621, such as predetermined rules used to identify or determine matches, are stored at and retrieved from an algorithm settings component 632 in the data tier 630. Matches determined by the matching service 621, both as clusters and as groupings, are retrieved by a match repository 633 in the data tier 630 for storage as clusters and groupings. Similarly, the matching service 621 retrieves pre-existing clusters and groupings from the match repository 633. In this manner, the matching service 621 may evaluate prior matches by comparison to match data retrieved from the matching engine 612.
 Application tier 640 includes a data application layer 641 through which a client tier 650 may interact with, control, and manage the data matching system 600. The client tier 650 is an access point into the system 600 for the enterprise and data consumers. The application tier 640 includes a user interface to facilitate such access. The user interface permits the management of match information, which includes the capability to review and modify stored matches. The user interface further includes a reporting component that permits the client tier 650 to access and receive reports relating to the system 600. And perhaps most importantly, the user interface allows the client tier 650 to access and use all data stored at the data tier 630, including data stored in content warehouse 631, clusters, and groupings.
XII. Computer Readable Medium Implementation
 The example embodiments described above such as, for example, the systems and procedures depicted in or discussed in connection with FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, or any part or function thereof, may be implemented by using hardware, software or a combination of the two. The implementation may be in one or more computers or other processing systems. While manipulations performed by these example embodiments may have been referred to in terms commonly associated with mental operations performed by a human operator, no human operator is needed to perform any of the operations described herein. In other words, the operations may be completely implemented with machine operations. Useful machines for performing the operation of the example embodiments presented herein include general purpose digital computers or similar devices.
 FIG. 7 is a block diagram of a general and/or special purpose computer 700, in accordance with some of the example embodiments of the invention. The computer 700 may be, for example, a user device, a user computer, a client computer and/or a server computer, among other things.
 The computer 700 may include without limitation a processor device 710, a main memory 725, and an interconnect bus 705. The processor device 710 may include without limitation a single microprocessor, or may include a plurality of microprocessors for configuring the computer 700 as a multi-processor system. The main memory 725 stores, among other things, instructions and/or data for execution by the processor device 710. The main memory 725 may include banks of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), as well as cache memory.
 The computer 700 may further include a mass storage device 730, peripheral device(s) 740, portable storage medium device(s) 750, input control device(s) 780, a graphics subsystem 760, and/or an output display 770. For explanatory purposes, all components in the computer 700 are shown in FIG. 7 as being coupled via the bus 705. However, the computer 700 is not so limited. Devices of the computer 700 may be coupled via one or more data transport means. For example, the processor device 710 and/or the main memory 725 may be coupled via a local microprocessor bus. The mass storage device 730, peripheral device(s) 740, portable storage medium device(s) 750, and/or graphics subsystem 760 may be coupled via one or more input/output (I/O) buses. The mass storage device 730 may be a nonvolatile storage device for storing data and/or instructions for use by the processor device 710. The mass storage device 730 may be implemented, for example, with a magnetic disk drive or an optical disk drive. In a software embodiment, the mass storage device 730 is configured for loading contents of the mass storage device 730 into the main memory 725.
 The portable storage medium device 750 operates in conjunction with a nonvolatile portable storage medium, such as, for example, a compact disc read only memory (CD-ROM), to input and output data and code to and from the computer 700. In some embodiments, the software for storing an internal identifier in metadata may be stored on a portable storage medium, and may be inputted into the computer 700 via the portable storage medium device 750. The peripheral device(s) 740 may include any type of computer support device, such as, for example, an input/output (I/O) interface configured to add additional functionality to the computer 700. For example, the peripheral device(s) 740 may include a network interface card for interfacing the computer 700 with a network 720.
 The input control device(s) 780 provide a portion of the user interface for a user of the computer 700. The input control device(s) 780 may include a keypad and/or a cursor control device. The keypad may be configured for inputting alphanumeric characters and/or other key information. The cursor control device may include, for example, a mouse, a trackball, a stylus, and/or cursor direction keys. In order to display textual and graphical information, the computer 700 may include the graphics subsystem 760 and the output display 770. The output display 770 may include a cathode ray tube (CRT) display and/or a liquid crystal display (LCD). The graphics subsystem 760 receives textual and graphical information, and processes the information for output to the output display 770.
 Each component of the computer 700 may represent a broad category of a computer component of a general and/or special purpose computer. Components of the computer 700 are not limited to the specific implementations provided here.
 Portions of the example embodiments of the invention may be conveniently implemented by using a conventional general purpose computer, a specialized digital computer and/or a microprocessor programmed according to the teachings of the present disclosure, as is apparent to those skilled in the computer art. Appropriate software coding may readily be prepared by skilled programmers based on the teachings of the present disclosure.
 Some embodiments may also be implemented by the preparation of application-specific integrated circuits, field programmable gate arrays, or by interconnecting an appropriate network of conventional component circuits.
 Some embodiments include a computer program product. The computer program product may be a storage medium or media having instructions stored thereon or therein which can be used to control, or cause, a computer to perform any of the procedures of the example embodiments of the invention. The storage medium may include without limitation a floppy disk, a mini disk, an optical disc, a Blu-ray Disc, a DVD, a CD-ROM, a micro-drive, a magneto-optical disk, a ROM, a RAM, an EPROM, an EEPROM, a DRAM, a VRAM, a flash memory, a flash card, a magnetic card, an optical card, nanosystems, a molecular memory integrated circuit, a RAID, remote data storage/archive/warehousing, and/or any other type of device suitable for storing instructions and/or data.
 Stored on any one of the computer readable medium or media, some implementations include software for controlling both the hardware of the general and/or special computer or microprocessor, and for enabling the computer or microprocessor to interact with a human user or other mechanism utilizing the results of the example embodiments of the invention. Such software may include without limitation device drivers, operating systems, and user applications. Ultimately, such computer readable media further includes software for performing example aspects of the invention, as described above.
 Included in the programming and/or software of the general and/or special purpose computer or microprocessor are software modules for implementing the procedures described above.
 While various example embodiments of the invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example, and not limitation. It is apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art(s) that various changes in form and detail can be made therein. Thus, the invention should not be limited by any of the above described example embodiments, but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents.
 In addition, it should be understood that the figures are presented for example purposes only. The architecture of the example embodiments presented herein is sufficiently flexible and configurable, such that it may be utilized (and navigated) in ways other than that shown in the accompanying figures.
 Further, the purpose of the Abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The Abstract is not intended to be limiting as to the scope of the example embodiments presented herein in any way. It is also to be understood that the procedures recited in the claims need not be performed in the order presented.
Patent applications by ROVI TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION